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This Christmas My Son With Autism Won't Hold Back If It's a 'Bad' Gift

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Ahhhh…Christmas, the season of giving and receiving is drawing near.

You know even if your gift is a dud, Aunt Betty will still appreciate your effort because after all, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Unless of course you have a brutally honest kid with autism who will let you know your thought does not count at all if you didn’t get the right gift. Sorry, no matter how much time you took to painstakingly find a gift for my son, if it sucks, he will tell you even though I asked him not to — 350 times in the car on our drive over to your house.

Every year at Christmas, on top of my normal holiday stresses — shopping, decorating, baking (ugh) — I also have to add the “What will he say this year and to who?” Because my son has, in fact, said the wrong thing when the gift was not the right thing. Repeatedly. To lots of people. For years.

Things like, “That’s the worst gift ever” and “That was a terrible idea” and let’s not forget my own personal favorite, “There isn’t enough money on this gift card to buy anything!” I can’t tell you how many times I tried to crawl into the Christmas tree or dunk my head in the nearest Christmas punch bowl in an attempt to hide from such brutal honesty that just came out of my kid’s mouth who is old enough to “know better.”

He does “know better,” but that doesn’t mean he won’t let you know your gift sucks and you should have known better not to get him that gift. Yeah, such comments may not be mannerly, kind or gracious, but damn if it’s not admiringly honest. There isn’t a single one of us who haven’t had to fake our way through an awful gift. And yes, we may know it’s the thought that counts but that still doesn’t keep us from getting in the car from grandma’s house and saying, “Did you see (insert worst gift you ever got here)? Did she honestly think I would like it?” I don’t know that bashing grandma’s gift behind her back is any worse than telling her straight up, “I’m sorry Grandma, but we just don’t have wall space anywhere in our house for this lovely 60×80 photo of a whale smiling. Maybe your neighbor would like it?”

OK, fine, maybe faking it is better, but, what if you can’t fake it? What if every neuron firing in your brain screams that you have to be honest all the time, that you can’t ever lie and that even though you love Grandma and you know how very much she loves you, the gift grandma gave you really, truly sucks.

Brutal honesty sometimes is a hallmark sign of autism. This honesty is not meant to hurt your feelings, even though it may, it’s just that in the same way some individuals with autism struggle to recognize facial cues and body language, they might also struggle with lying to someone in order to spare their feelings. To some individuals with autism, lying is more offensive and wrong than sparing your feelings. In fact, your feelings probably don’t even enter their mind, not because they don’t care about you, but, because in their very literal mind, there is truth and lie, there is no “fake it.” The truth may hurt, but their intention was not to hurt you.

This same kid who is “old enough to know better,” who has honesty engrained in him at a cellular level, may bash your sucky gift but they will never lie to you, they will never pretend to like you if they don’t and they will always tell it like it is. So if they say your fruitcake is good, than hot damn, you better believe you make a good fruitcake.

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Originally published: December 21, 2017
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